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Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Rules that Former Employee Can Proceed with Medicinal Marijuana Discrimination Lawsuit

Published:  July 18, 2017

Yesterday, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (“SJC”) ruled that an employee can proceed with her disability discrimination lawsuit against her former employer where the employee was terminated based upon her use of medicinal marijuana.

The former employee (Plaintiff), Cristina Barbuto, was hired for an entry level position at Advantage Sales and Marketing, LLC (Defendant) in late summer 2014.  After the Plaintiff was hired, the Defendant advised her that she needed to take a mandatory drug test.  She then informed her supervisor that she would test positive for marijuana, and further explained that she suffered from a medical condition for which her doctor had provided written certification; this certification allowed her to use marijuana for medicinal purposes under Massachusetts law.  The Defendant then terminated the Plaintiff’s employment, stating that it followed federal, not Massachusetts law.  Importantly, federal law considers marijuana to be an illegal drug, while Massachusetts laws recognize legal uses for marijuana.

The employee ultimately filed suit in Massachusetts Superior Court alleging that the Defendant had discriminated against her based upon her handicap in violation of M.G.L. c. 151B.  The Superior Court allowed the Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss and the Employee appealed this decision.  The SJC ruled that an employee’s use of medical marijuana under the facts of the case is not facially unreasonable as an accommodation for her handicap and allows the Plaintiff to continue with her suit based upon a disability discrimination theory.  The case will now progress through litigation, and the Plaintiff will be required to prove her allegations.

A link to the full SJC decision can be found here

We will continue to monitor the case as it progresses.  If you have any questions regarding the SJC’s decision, or any other aspect of disability law, please contact the attorneys at Royal, P.C.

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